I don’t know a lot about drugs. Other than prescriptions and over the counter stuff, I’ve never used them. In ministry I’ve come across a few people who have struggled with addiction and they have all pretty much said the same thing about their addiction: it was all about manufacturing a “high” that makes them feel alive/better/happy. An addict’s life begins to revolve around that high they experience. Everything they do is just to get them by until they get their next fix.
When I look at the current state of youth ministry (at least in America) it seems to be all about manufacturing a spiritual high for our youth. In a sense we are spiritual drug dealers. I can’t even begin to recall how many kids I have worked with or have encountered who are relying on on “mountaintop experiences” to get them along in their faith. As youth workers, we tend to play into that and program our ministries to create those experiences.
For some, this will work fine. Those kids who are really working on owning their faith will truly benefit from the recharge that comes from those events. On the other hand, kids who are relying on just these kinds of events are going to end up worse off than before.
Just like an addict starts to require more and more and crash more quickly, a student who relies only on these mountaintop events cannot sustain their spiritual high. They will eventually reach a point when no mountaintop experience will sustain them. There is no amount of emotion or energy that will get them back to the top.
Emotion and energy are also part of the problem. Kids who rely on that come to have an expectation that God only works or meets them through intense, highly emotional and energetic experiences. That just isn’t true! God is a God who works in our lives every day, but we have unintentionally trained kids to expect to encounter God in a spectacular fashion, not in the quiet of a prayer closet, the truth of scripture or fellowship with a friend.
How often do we intentionally create these experiences for youth? Usually it’s under the guise of “creating momentum”, which it certainly does. But, what are we doing to foster the faith of those kids once they start descending the mountain? If we are relying on mountaintop experiences instead of discipleship to get by in our ministries, then we are probably doing more damage than good to these students. Basically we are spiritual drug dealers, manufacturing the highs these kids crave.